An Interview with Jo van der Meij
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Are you thinking about joining? Asking yourself where you will end up if you do? Don't worry because we've got you covered. In this quick little interview, we asked our director Jo everything you could ever want to know and more.
How did Park Avenue start?
Very small! My boyfriend and I had just gotten our workspace and it was perfect for rehearsals as well. So I put up an ad, a friend of mine wanted to join and we got two enthusiastic ladies and Park Avenue was born!
Wasn’t it strange to direct in such a small group?
Actually I loved it. I had been directing for a while at that point and having such a small group gave me all the time in the world to focus on not just rehearsing the play over and over again, but to teach them how to grown as actors. Some groups focus just on actors getting their lines ‘just right’. But what the hell is ‘just right?’. We’re not robots, we are people, so are the characters we play. And what do we people respond to?
I was hoping you’d get that right. Exactly.. people. I want my actors to get more out of rehearsal then knowing how to say a line nicely. I want them to learn to respond from something real and connecting that to a character.
Sounds like it’s an acting workshop as well as a rehearsal.
That is our goal, definitely
But you also have acting workshops
Yes. Some are just one day and some a whole weekend. It’s still quite new and getting it out there is the challenge. I’ve had actors in the workshops that I’ve worked with for years. We had a workshop ‘playing in the moment’. This is an important element that I work with during rehearsals, at the workshop actors get the opportunity to build on that what they know. And those new to it benefit from seeing it ‘in action’. Those kind workshops require a certain level of experience to maintain the quality of it, others are accessible to all levels.
So what does a season with Park Avenue look like?
In September we have an open rehearsal for actors, all levels are welcome. Together with a few from the current cast we do exercises and everyone can get to know each other and I can have a look at what the new actors bring. The balance in the group is important, but we’ve always been able to accept everyone into the group. We have a maximum of 11 players. Two weeks after the open rehearsal we get together for the first rehearsal of the season. We go through several options for Shakespeare plays (based on the group formation). The group votes and that’s how we choose what to play. I then edit the script and around eight months later they are on stage performing it.
How do you guys arrange costumes and sets?
About 75% of the costumes, props and sets come from our own storage. I love going to uh.. ‘rommelmarkten’ what do you call them. Flea market. My father use to take me to them when I was young and I get a kick out of rummaging through the weirdest piles of stuff and finding little gems. You’ll be surprised how many costumes you can find. And at this point everyone knows we collect props for shows and many friends have donated great things that end up on stage. Many actors in the group are fantastic about gathering all the stuff we need though. It’s a blessing to have our storage, but the group makes the whole possible.
What is your dream for Park Avenue?
A household name for English Theater in Amsterdam. I would love to direct three or four professional productions in a year, two groups of open level actors one Shakespeare and one contemporary play. As well as workshops every single month. A place for expats and Dutch people to come together and lean, grow and have fun.